Anglicans Meet To Choose New Archbishop Of Canterbury

Rowan Williams‘ successor as the Archbishop of Canterbury will be chosen in the coming days as the near-ancient process to select who will follow him as leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans is underway. Williams, 62, is retiring in December.

AFP reports that the Crown Nominations Commission is meeting at a secret location. The 16-member panel of bishops, church members, and lay people will pick a preferred candidate and a reserve choice and will then submit the names to the English Prime Minister David Cameron. He will pass the name of the preferred candidate on to Queen Elizabeth, technically the supreme head of the Anglican Church, who must approve.

Perhaps the best known position of leadership in organized Christianity is the Pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, but not far behind in notoriety and influence is the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church.

Reuters reports that, while Williams’ tenure has been one of accomplishment, not everyone is convinced he had done the best job of holding together the Anglican community, which is split over issues such as female ordination and gay marriage.

“Under him, there have been two significant changes: one is the growth of secularism,” Paul Handley, editor of the Church Times newspaper, told Reuters. “The other is greater division in the church over issues like women bishops, women priests and gay weddings.”

Williams’ successor, who will be the 105th Arch Bishop of Canterbury, must balance appeasing traditional Anglicans and their more liberal counterparts.

Believed to be frontrunners for the post are the Bishop of Durham Justin Welby, 56, a former oil executive turned Anglican priest, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, 63, a traditionalist and the church’s second most senior cleric, and Bishop of Coventry Christopher Cocksworth, 53.